After spending nearly a month in Japan, around 450 Alaska-based soldiers from the 25th Infantry Division, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, traveled to South Korea to continue training missions as part of the US Army’s Pacific Pathways Initiative. While in Japan, the task force participated in joint exercise Orient Shield, during which they conducted training exercises with the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force. The exercises began with functional training and eventually moved on to live-fire exercises. In addition to the training operations, the Alaskan soldiers had the opportunity to see the Fukushima tsunami disaster site and were joined on September 11th by members of the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Forces in conducting a moment of silence. In Korea, the group participated in further combat-readiness training and live-fire exercises in conjunction with the Korean military.
In December 2013, the US Army’s Pacific Pathways Initiative was introduced in an effort to make the army more flexible and expeditionary in responding to the needs of the US Pacific Command. To accomplish this, small divisions go to different Asian countries and conduct various training missions and security force assistance activities. The forces also receive training to respond to humanitarian crises and security threats in the region. The program not only aides in building relationships, but also tests these troops in their readiness, training, and ability to deploy within a small time frame.
Military forces across the US have cooperated with militaries around Asia on a number of occasions. Different groups of Alaskan forces have recently trained in Australia, as well as in Mongolia, and the state also hosted a group from the Japanese Self Defense Forces this past August. Troops from Hawai‘i have collaborated with their counterparts in Indonesia, as have soldiers from Nevada with those from the island nation of Tonga, in addition to troops from Oregon collaborating with those from Vietnam. With programs like the Pathways Initiative and the National Guard’s State Partnership Program, local-level military collaboration with Asian nations continues to be an important emphasis in US military training and readiness.
Raveena Ugale is a Reseach Intern at the East-West Center in Washington and a Senior at the George Washington University.